Knotty matters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:00am

The bow tie - that classic staple in men's formal attire - can be traced back to the French jabot, a type of readymade lace cravat. It became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as the perfect complement to a tuxedo.

Today, the bow tie has evolved to include various styles and materials, and has graced the necks of Abraham Lincoln, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

In the mid-1800s, tie-makers gave bow ties a more definitive shape, which is still evident in modern versions. Nowadays, most are made from silk (cotton is too flimsy) and come in the one size that can fit a collar ranging from 14? to 18? inches. The back of each tie has an extra length of material that can be adjusted to fit comfortably around the collar.

There's a range of bow sizes (experts say that the taller the wearer, the bigger the bow) from such brands as Hugo Boss, Cerruti and Burberry. For spring, popular styles include plaid, dots and florals - and plenty of pink.

What you're most likely to notice, though, is how hard it is to find a traditional hand-tied model - in large part because men often find them too complicated to tie, preferring the ease of ready-tied versions.

Nonetheless, there's still a demand for the old-fashioned way. With this in mind, we enlisted the help of Hau Suk-wah, an experienced bow-tier and saleslady at Seibu to guide us through the art of tying the perfect bow. Although there are various styles and procedures, Hau assures us that this is the traditional - and easiest - method.

First timers should start with longer pieces, but more experienced 'knotters' can go for shorter lengths.